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Rural News

After Parkland, States Pass 50 New Gun-Control Laws

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 2, 2018

Something familiar happened in America in February: A gunman walked into a school, and shot and killed 17 students and staff in a horrific act of violence. But then something unfamiliar happened: State legislators — inspired by a movement led by the student survivors of that mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — started passing legislation to restrict gun access.This was a year of unparalleled success for the gun-control movement in the United States. States across the country, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people. State lawmakers still managed to expand gun access with at least 10 new laws in seven states. These measures — from allowing guns in K-12 schools to bolstering “stand your ground” laws — continued to carry weight in certain parts of the country, even as the gun-control movement steadily gained steam elsewhere.

New Mexico investigates immigration detention

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2018

Last month, Roberto de Jesús González spoke to state legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about his experience being held for three months in the Otero County Processing Center. “(I was) a victim of the private prison system,” he said — treated like an animal, poorly fed and given little respect by the guards. “This business is based on human suffering,” he told lawmakers. “That was my experience.” He wasn’t alone. At the hearing, convened by the state’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to consider better oversight of private detention facilities, a line of detainees formed behind de Jesús González to describe their own experiences with medical neglect, solitary confinement and spoiled food. All the while, they reminded legislators that they were either asylum seekers — meaning they hadn’t broken any laws and were seeking shelter from persecution or violence — or people who had been detained on civil charges. Leila, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, said she understood the government’s need for detention centers. But, she added, “There should be some fairness in the way they treat people.”

Is the American Dream Still ALive in Rural America? | Posted on August 1, 2018

Many such towns face a turning point. John Ikerd, a retired University of Missouri agricultural economist, sees the rural mood as “a growing sense of impotence and dread.” Ultimately, a positive rural future hinges on rural residents taking the future into their own hands and working together for their community’s common good, says Ikerd. Several steps taken in the past 15 years have helped sustain Langford’s businesses, says Jensen. Glacial Lakes Area Development helps support local individuals and industries with tools like business development goals. In 2008, Langford started a foundation that earns $10,000 annually for community project grants. The Front Porch, a 5,000-square-foot facility, opened in 2015. It houses four new businesses, including a restaurant and bar. Funding came in the form of loans from economic development entities, local bank funding, cash donations, and stock purchases from 110 area investors.  Off-farm income is vital in helping rural areas retain farmers and residents. David Peters, an Iowa State University Extension rural sociologist, summarized income trends for Iowa farms and farm families from 2003 to 2015. He found off-farm income was vital for two types of farms.

Rural America is ripe with potential, starving for capital

The Hill | Posted on August 1, 2018

Investment in venture-backed companies in the United States reached $57 billion in almost 4,000 deals in the first half of 2018. Yet, only a fraction of those dollars found their way to funds and companies based in rural America. This capital deficit is starving innovative and valuable growth opportunities across rural communities. Many people think immediately of agriculture when focused on rural communities, yet it only makes up 6 percent of today’s rural economy.One way of addressing the issue of scale that is often a limiting factor for rural investment is the development of funds that target mid-tier investments. The recent wave of Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs) is a good example.Their charters limit their investments to rural-based businesses and their typical investment slice has been in the $1-5-million range. Another tool is a fund of funds approach, where many small funds are brought together by institutions as way of allowing their customers to obtain the diversity and scale that is denied them in more targeted funds.

How Can Landowners Protect Themselves from Liability?

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on August 1, 2018

A common concern for landowners across the country is how to ensure they are protected from liability if someone is injured on their property.  In fact, in one morning last week, I got three emails from landowners asking what they could do now to be in a position to best defend themselves in the event an injury does occur on their land. Importantly, there is no silver-bullet that will ensure a landowner will not ever be liable for anything.  Additionally, there is nothing a landowner can do to make it impossible for another person to file a lawsuit against the landowner.  There are, however, numerous steps landowners can take to limit liability and protect their operations from this concern. Every landowner needs to have a liability insurance policy that covers every activity taking place on the property.   However, generally speaking, warning any guest on the property about dangerous conditions or making them safe would satisfy the duty of care owned by a landowner to any type of guest on the property. 

Editorial: Rural America needs Theodore Roosevelt

The Roanoke Times | Posted on July 31, 2018

The New York-born president looked out at the nation and didn’t like what he saw.He saw two very different Americas that were increasingly growing apart — a prosperous urban America where the economy was driven by fantastical new technologies, and a rural America that was being passed over by this emerging new economy.2018? No. 1908. The president then was Theodore Roosevelt, who envisioned himself a man of action (and often was). Roosevelt feared that the economic gap opening between the two parts of the country was not a healthy one. So he did what politicians often do: He appointed a blue-ribbon commission to study the matter.Roosevelt’s commission — which included Henry Wallace, a future Democratic vice president — fanned out across the country to study the economy of rural America. It held 30 public hearings and produced a report, the main recommendations of which were put into action. (The most famous of those at the time was the creation of the agricultural extension service).


Hard lessons are learned growing up on the farm

AgWeek | Posted on July 31, 2018

Every day I am grateful for the opportunity my children have had to live on a farm. I have truly appreciated the life lessons, work ethic and sense of responsibility they have gained. I know they are equipped on a level most never experience to handle whatever life may throw their way. It is, however, not without some sadness and pain.

Editorial: Should people in rural areas simply move?

The Roanoke Times | Posted on July 31, 2018

That lack of empathy for rural areas isn’t confined to the left, though. A surprising number of conservative commentators take the same point of view. In 2016, Kevin Williamson wrote a scathing piece in the right-leaning National Review about Rust Belt communities in upstate New York and concluded “the truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die.” His blunt advice to the people who live there: Move. “They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.” Even President Trump — who rode to office on the strength of votes from places that Williamson says “deserve to die” — apparently now shares similar views. In an interview last summer with The Wall Street Journal, Trump also said that residents of some communities should simply move: “I’m going to start explaining to people when you have an area that just isn’t working —like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt – and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t— you can’t get people, I’m going to explain you can leave.” We bring all this up because there’s recently been a flurry of articles in national publications— from the New Republic to the New York Times to Reason to Slate — that essentially pose the same questions: Is it really possible to build a new economy in communities that have seen traditional employers wither away? Should we even try to save them? Or should we simply tell people to move?

Survey: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Oppose Cuts to SNAP Program

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health | Posted on July 31, 2018

A majority of registered voters oppose recent efforts to scale back Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits and believe the government should be doing more to meet the needs of people facing food insecurity and other challenges. The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research from June 5 to June 12, explores voter attitudes on several key farm bill issues, including conservation programs designed to protect U.S. land, water and food supply. The farm bill, when passed, will replace the Farm Act of 2014, which expires this year. In addition to support for SNAP, a majority of survey respondents would like to see increased environmental regulations for the agricultural industry. The nationwide survey conducted by phone included 1,005 registered voters.Among survey respondents, almost two-thirds (61 percent) said that they were opposed to reducing funding for SNAP, more commonly known as Food Stamps. Among those opposed, over 73 percent said that they were “strongly opposed” to cuts. Registered voters are more divided on whether to cap the number of SNAP recipients in a single household.The survey also found that 85 percent of respondents support increased opportunities for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers to participate in government support programs, and 57 percent support increased funding for small- and mid-sized farms.

Are property values affected by wind farms?

Center for Rural Affairs | Posted on July 31, 2018

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory completed a study in 2013 that used data collected from the sale of more than 50,000 homes in 27 counties, in nine different states. These homes were within 10 miles of wind projects, with 1,198 sales within one mile and 331 within half of a mile. This study also used data from before a project; the post-announcement, pre-construction period; and during operation. The study found no evidence of an effect on prices of homes in proximity to wind turbines. While wind farms appear to have no notable effect on property values, siting remains an important piece of wind energy development. Developers, along with county and community officials, must identify ways to address concerns and mitigate impacts from new development, while allowing landowners to host wind turbines, if they choose to.